Leader of the Victorian Nationals Peter Walsh has congratulated his Federal colleagues following significant changes this week, including new party leadership and Cabinet positions.
Firstly, Mr Walsh welcomed Barnaby Joyce as the new leader of the Federal Nationals and Deputy Prime Minister in the Coalition Government.
“Barnaby tells it how it is, and has been a strong voice for rural and regional Australians for many years,” Mr Walsh said.
“There is no questioning Barnaby’s passion for country communities and he will be a dedicated leader of The Nationals going forward.”
NSW Senator Fiona Nash is the new Deputy Leader and was today announced as Minister for Regional Development, Regional Communications and Rural Health in the new Federal Cabinet.
“Congratulations to Fiona, who has been a fierce advocate for regional communities and is the first female Deputy Leader of the Federal Nationals,” Mr Walsh said.
“Fiona’s work so far to progress the health needs of rural communities has been crucial in ensuring they can keep better pace with bigger cities.”
The Nationals have secured an additional position in the Federal Cabinet today, which sees Member for Gippsland Darren Chester promoted to Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.
“Well done to Darren on his much-deserved elevation into the Federal Cabinet,” Mr Walsh said.
“With his new portfolios, I’ll be talking to Darren sooner rather than later about regional Victoria’s need for roads and rail investment.”
Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan has added to the misery of regional Victorians by admitting in Parliament that the V/Line crisis is costing taxpayers $300,000 a day in replacement buses.
At the same time, it was revealed through a Parliamentary inquiry today that the cause of the wheel-wear problems plaguing V/Line won’t be known until the end of March, while timetables won’t be back to normal until mid-year at the earliest.
Leader of The Nationals Peter Walsh said the revelations would rub salt in the wounds of regional commuters.
“After everything they have gone through – train cancellations, overcrowding, replacement buses, signalling faults, wheel wear – to find out it’s costing taxpayers $300,000 per day is a slap in the face for regional Victorians,” Mr Walsh said.
“That’s $300,000 every day that could be better spent providing a better train service, or fixing up our ageing schools, repairing dangerous potholes on our roads, or improving our hospitals.
“Just like the $1.1 billion wasted on not building the East West Link, we are seeing more money going down the drain under Daniel Andrews and Jacinta Allan’s watch.”
Mr Walsh said rural and regional Victorians needed some real answers on the V/Line crisis.
“Regional Victorians are sick and tired of excuses. If Jacinta Allan can’t fix the train mess, then Daniel Andrews should step in and take over,” Mr Walsh said.
Bendigo residents will have lost all confidence in Jacinta Allan.
Just two weeks ago, she promised that “Bendigo will have better train and bus services, making it easier get to get to work or to school, and home again at the end of the day.”
But now Bendigo’s train network is collapsing under her watch, all Jacinta Allan has to offer are excuses – and no solutions.
‘Conversations’ and ‘consultation’ will not solve the countless issues plaguing VLine.
If Jacinta Allan continues to refuse taking responsibility for Bendigo’s train problems, Premier Daniel Andrews must urgently step in and take control.
Daniel Andrews’ Labor Government has been caught out trying to claw Commonwealth funds away from upgrades to mobile phone black spots in Victoria’s high fire-risk areas.
The Age has reported that the Andrews Labor Government lobbied the Commonwealth to change the funding criteria for its black spot program, so money meant for fire-prone areas could instead help to pay for Daniel Andrews’ commitment to improve phone coverage on trains.
The Commonwealth has said it will not be changing the funding guidelines.
It comes after Daniel Andrews axed a $40 million program set up by the former Victorian Coalition Government to upgrade mobile coverage along rail lines and provide Wi-Fi on V/Locity trains.
Comments from Shadow Minister for Regional Development Damian Drum:
“Daniel Andrews and Labor should be ashamed by their attempts to short-change communities at risk of bushfires.
“The only reason Daniel Andrews wants this extra funding is because he cut the existing $40 million program from this year’s Budget.
“This is another appalling snub for regional Victoria from the Andrews Labor Government.”
Daniel Andrews has dealt yet another blow to regional Victoria, and this one on the eve of Christmas.
Under Daniel Andrews’ city-centric government, we’ve lost the $1 billion Regional Growth Fund and the highly popular Country Roads and Bridges Program, the regional development budget has been slashed by 24 per cent, and there have been paltry investments in regional major projects and regional hospitals.
It’s outrageous that Daniel Andrews happily spent $1.1 billion of taxpayers’ money not building a road in Melbourne but he won’t invest even a fraction of this into our Regional Living programs.
Jaala Pulford was asked about the future of the Regional Living Expo in Parliament just five days ago and said “no decision has been made”.
Why didn’t the Minister come clean when questioned in Parliament last week, instead of fudging the answer and rolling out a press release five days later? It looks like Labor has been embarrassed into making a decision.
What Minister Pulford used to say – media release, 1 May 2015
“The Expo is a chance for rural and regional councils to showcase the outstanding benefits of their local areas, helping to attract potential residents, skilled workers, business and investment.”
What Regional Development Victoria says – annual report 2014/15
“The fourth edition of the Regional Victoria Living Expo was a success, attracting a record 10,156 patrons.”
“Once again, the Expo proved particularly popular with young families and working professionals, and councils continue to receive positive enquiries from attendees keen to move to their regions.”
The Andrews Labor Government’s plan to reverse the north-south pipeline and turn on the desal plant is more than a thought bubble, with a business case underway.
Premier Daniel Andrews and Water Minister Lisa Neville have both recently talked-up the potential of reversing of the north-south pipeline to send water from Melbourne to the north of the state.
Under Labor’s plan, water taken from the Melbourne system would be replaced with desalinated water, which costs around $5000 per megalitre to produce.
When questioned in Parliament this week, Lisa Neville refused to say how much reversing the pipeline would cost or who would pay for the water if it did go ahead, but said a business case was being undertaken.
Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Water Minister Peter Walsh said the plan was nothing more than a cruel hoax on northern Victorian irrigators who were already struggling to afford up to $300 per megalitre on the temporary water market.
“It would be ridiculous to ask irrigators to pay $5000 per megalitre for water when they are already struggling with the current price,” Mr Walsh said.
“The average dairy farm would be paying around $4.5 million a year for water at that pricetag.
“Labor’s plan is nothing more than a cruel hoax and a desperate attempt to justify turning on the desal plant.”
The cost of desal water:
· The standby cost of the desal plant in 2015/16 is $620 million, with no water produced.
· To produce 150GL of water, the capacity of the plant, would cost an additional $117 million.
· The total cost of $737 million divided by 150GL (150,000ML) is $4913 per ML.
Leader of The Nationals Peter Walsh:
“Today’s announcement is underwhelming for regional Victoria to say the least.
“If Daniel Andrews is putting the government ‘back to work’ for regional Victoria, where have they been for the past 12 months?
“Regional Victoria has lost 10,100 full-time jobs since Daniel Andrews came to office and this brochure does nothing to reverse that trend.”
Shadow Regional Development Minister Damian Drum:
“We’ve waited a year for the Labor Government to come up with nine committees and a glossy booklet with no new money.”
Nationals Candidate for Polwarth David O’Brien will fight for a $4 million Farmer’s Defender’s Office to defend the right to farm.
When in government, Mr O’Brien was instrumental in pushing for a Farmer’s Defenders Office, which became Coalition policy.
“My Farmers Defenders Office would give farmers free legal assistance when dealing with issues around the right to farm,” Mr O’Brien said.
"It is intended to assist farmers in Polwarth in fights against non farming uses such as CSG.
“The FDO would also set up partnerships with rural and regional law firms, and will be a first point-of-contact for farmers.
“Farmers don’t always have the money or the legal know how to defend their interests. Further, farmers are often involved in cases which have widespread implications across the nation - cases against competing uses including CSG; or against activists or property developers who move into farming land.
“Farming is the backbone of our rural economies and we need to protect it to protect the jobs of the future.
“To ensure viable farms and food security, we must stop farms being threatened by urban encroachment, unlawful conduct by activists and competing commercial interests including CSG,” Mr O’Brien said.
Rokewood farmer Kylie Walton said farmers had been crying out for a service like this for years.
"Farmers don't have the money and resources that big mining companies and big property developers do to fight legal battles – we don't have in-house lawyers," Ms Walton said.
"Finally, this is an idea which may even the playing field a little."
"We need to protect our right to farm, our land and our water for our children."
The Nationals candidate for South West Coast Michael Neoh has today called for a new age energy centre of excellence to be established at Portland.
Speaking ahead of the candidates' forum at Portland on Wednesday, Mr Neoh said that new age, or renewable, energy industry was a perfect fit for Portland.
“Victoria’s south west coast has many natural advantages for renewable energy such as an abundance of wind, the ocean coastline and sunlight.
“There are a number of wind turbines installed around the district, and components for wind turbine towers are already manufactured at Portland by Keppel Prince so it makes sense to continue to build on this natural advantage.
“In addition, the relevant renewable energy department and staff should be located in Portland to ensure critical work at the centre of excellence is done locally.
“The locating of the department in Portland would create a welcomes boost to the local economy as well as bring new jobs and families to the area.
“The locating of the centre of excellence in Portland would no doubt see hundreds of new jobs created for our whole region in the future.”
The state of Foxhow and Ayresford roads, is a major concern to the local community and must be addressed as a matter of urgency according to the Nationals candidate for Polwarth, David O’Brien.
Mr O’Brien, who made a strong declaration to make roads his number one priority at his campaign launch in Camperdown two weeks ago, is calling on the local community to attend a roads forum in Simpson on Thursday evening.
“I am in no doubt that roads is the number one issue for people in Polwarth at the moment and I am calling on the Andrews government to take action right now to get this road fixed,” said Mr O’Brien.
Mr O’Brien also responded to Corangamite Mayor Chris O’Connor’s, recent comments on the lack lustre of election campaign and stating the was disappointed with the Mayor’s comments.
“I have been calling for the planning for the necessary upgrades and duplication of the Princes Highway including the consideration of Mr O’Connor’s 2:1 option to commence, since I announced my candidacy for Polwarth.
“In fact I discussed the matter with him in person on the day of my campaign launch. The first step is to have the road recognised as an Auslink status road,” Mr O’Brien commented.
“I listen to the local community and I act. That is why I am inviting Mayor O’Connor and all interested members of the community to attend my Roads Forum in Simpson on Thursday evening.
We need to stand together on this, and if elected I will make personal representations to the State Minister and work with my Nationals colleague in Canberra, Deputy Prime and Minister for Infrastructure, Warren Truss, to see that the Princes Highway duplication to Warrnambool is everyone’s number one priority,” Mr O’Brien declared.
“Right now though the Andrews government should be pushing Vic Roads to fix Foxhow Road, and address the state of Ayresford Road. These roads are hazardous and they need to be fixed immediately,“ stated Mr O’Brien.
The Roads Forum will be held at the Simpson Hotel on Thursday 15 October 2015 at 7:00pm.